For the formal testing, we used an HP EliteBook X360 1020 G2 notebook, an Asus ZenPad S8 tablet (for Avira Phantom VPN) and a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 phone (for Speedify). Wi-Fi and Ethernet connections were provided by a 200-Mbps cable broadband line. Each time we connected to a VPN service, we recorded how long it took to get online and noted how many times the service disconnected us.
A VPN client on a remote user's computer or mobile device connects to a VPN gateway on the organization's network. The gateway typically requires the device to authenticate its identity. Then, it creates a network link back to the device that allows it to reach internal network resources -- e.g., file servers, printers and intranets -- as though the gateway is on the network locally.
If you’re looking for something free, look no further. If StrongVPN and SurfEasy are like like a solid mid-class sedan, TunnelBear is more like the econo-car (if you buy a TunnelBear subscription) or the city bus (if you use their generous free program). That’s not a knock on TunnelBear, either–they’ve been around for years and their free service tier has been of great utility to people in need all over the world.
From all our testing, we think that the best VPN out there right now is Express. It's a premium VPN service but still only costs $6.67 per month - that's about the price of a pint of beer in the UK! And for that you get the best VPN in the world, without any security concerns, with 24/7 customer support, guaranteed access to Netflix US, almost constant uptime and a 30-day money back guarantee (no questions asked) if you change your mind. Check out ExpressVPN!
IVPN is a Gibraltar-based VPN service whose primary USP is excellent security and privacy. It uses multi-hop technology that routes user traffic through a maze of networks to leave hackers scratching their heads should they attempt stealing your information. However, it offers inconsistent speeds with some servers operating quite fast, while others being slow.
ProtonVPN is a VPN from Switzerland. The software is easy to use and provides all the features necessary to keep your data secure both at home and while on public WiFi. Servers are located around the world, and because ProtonVPN uses a Secure Core network of servers – it will provide fantastic speeds for streaming. Proton permits P2P for torrenting on some of its servers. In addition, it can be installed and used on five simultaneous devices. That means you can protect all your devices with one account. The VPN is zero logs (it never stores IP addresses) and the time of your last session is deleted every time a new session is started.
With multiple clients, rich with different features, it’s no wonder this VPN service handles more than 10 million users. It covers Microsoft’s and Apple’s operating systems, but also iOS and Android. The interface is not the best out there and could definitely use some work, but these disadvantages are easily overshadowed by the awesome features this VPN offers.
The bad news for anyone used to free services is that it pays to pay when it comes to a VPN. There are tons of free options from reputable companies, but these are usually a poor substitute for the paid options. Free services usually allow a limited amount of bandwidth usage per month or offer a slower service. Tunnel Bear, for example, offers just 500MB of free bandwidth per month, while CyberGhost offers a free service that is significantly slower than its paid service.
VPN services, while tremendously helpful, are not foolproof. There's no magic bullet (or magic armor) when it comes to security. A determined adversary can almost always breach your defenses in one way or another. Using a VPN can't help if you unwisely download ransomware on a visit to the Dark Web, or if you foolishly give up your data to a phishing attack.